July 25th, 2013
Imagine a student performing at their maximum potential. One who distinguishes him/herself in the extracurricular activities the student participates in and receives impressive scores on the ACT and/or SAT accompanied by the outstanding transcript the student diligently maintained throughout their high school career. Now imagine a student with noticeably lower scores and a subordinate academic resume in comparison to the previously mentioned student, and their only commonality is their dream school. The first student is denied acceptance to the college that consumed their thoughts and aspirations throughout their adolescence, and the second student is admitted. “Why?” One may ask with a sense of injustice. The answer is, the first student checked the “Caucasian” box under the “Ethnicity Background” section in their college application, and the other student filled in a box pertaining to a minority.
This racially motivated practice used by College Admissions Committees and employers is the controversial policy termed “Affirmative Action.” When President Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, Affirmative Action was indeed necessary (Brunner). The policy was initially enacted in 1965, during a time when blatant racism limited the educational and employment opportunities for African Americans and a variety of other minorities (Brunner). Although Affirmative Action may have been expedient during the Civil Rights Era and possibly the following decade or two, considering the low average African American socioeconomic status, significant improvements have occurred throughout the years. The U.S. currently possesses a substantial black middle class, assessing that there are four times as many African American families earning incomes above $50,000 a year in comparison to data from 1964 (Nagel). Today, Affirmative Action is simply futile, if not detrimental, and should be abolished; the policy undermines the promoted American principle of equality, creates an inept competition for more qualified students, and encourages the continuance of racism.
Affirmative Action negates the praised American value of equality, obligating the College Admissions Committees to acknowledge a physical attribute of a potential, future student. The policy forces the members of the College Admissions Committees to evaluate the skin color of an applicant, then apply this knowledge to their decision. Race should not be a determining factor for any applicant, especially one for college, considering the requirements for acceptance are clearly defined. The acceptance or rejection of a student should be based solely on their academic abilities or non-school related talents. The use of Affirmative Action is a step back down the path to a truly color-blind society, for the policy compels us to detect the different characteristics associated with various races, thus nurturing and preserving stereotypes. Obviously, stereotypes directly impact minorities in a negative manner, and the use of stereotypes is enhanced by this policy, therefore, Affirmative Action is to be credited with the longevity of racism and stereotype usage. Affirmative Action is primarily geared towards augmenting diversity in campuses. Although the object of the policy may be applauded, diversity should transpire naturally, and should not be tampered with. Manipulated campus culture does not truly benefit anybody in the long term, for the use of Affirmative Action will plant a seed of self-doubt in the admitted minorities, and lead to their fellow Caucasian students questioning the legitimacy of the academic capabilities of minorities. This adverse stigma affiliated with the intelligence and academic aptitude of minorities does not stop at college. It is probable that the unfavorable connotation is an unfortunate attachment to minorities for the rest of their lives. Caucasians may subconsciously avoid employing the black accountant, visiting the Hispanic doctor, seeking legal advice from the Filipino lawyer, due to their implied academic inferiority. This rationalization fosters the common assumption that most Caucasians deserve their places in society and academic achievements more than their corresponding minority alumnus. Affirmative Action is also offensive towards minorities for the policy insinuates that minorities are incompetent students, and that their academic performance summons auxiliary assistance in the acceptance to their chosen universities. The policy maims the confidence of minorities and Caucasian’s trust in them. Arrant racism is presently taboo in America, therefore, Affirmative Action serves no purpose other than to instigate racial conflicts and secure the residual, clandestine divide that lingers on from the years of segregation.
When dismissing the racial aspect of Affirmative Action and focusing on the actual results, one may discern the course of action the policy requests. Affirmative Action endorses the rejection of suitable students, in order to retain spots for weaker ones. This policy is a recipe for disaster. Affirmative Action sets up these admitted students for failure, considering they are not as qualified in comparison to the majority of the student-body. Initially, the delusional students will acquire an inflated sense of self-worth, (due to their acceptance into a school that exceeds their realistic possibilities) then they will soon detect their academic deficiency in contrast to their classmates, which will inevitably tarnish their self-esteem. African American author and university professor Shelby Steele identifies this common effect in his book The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America, “The effect of preferential treatment-the lowering of normal standards to increase black representation-puts blacks at war with an expanded realm of debilitating doubt so that the doubt itself becomes an unrecognized preoccupation that undermines their ability to perform, especially in integrated situations (Steele, 118).” Dr. Steele highlights that the Affirmative Action “crutch” attenuates African American confidence in their academic capabilities, even if they meet the requirements emphasized by the college and are prepared for the curriculum (Steele). The policy may instill the fear in minorities that all of their accomplishments are inaccurate or questionable, which inhibits them from welcoming challenges that they could handle (Steele). However, the policy also bestows false hope of the collegiate dexterity of minority applicants. Demonstrating the failure of engineered diversity, in the early 1990s there was a surge of African American students on college campuses, but only 26-28 % of them graduated (Nagel). Some states have passed laws banning or restricting the use of Affirmative Action. Progressive California was the first state to outlaw Affirmative Action with the passing of Proposition 209 in 1996 (Nagel).
The immediate, undeniable decrease in minority admissions to the most competitive schools in California sparked debate, but the drop was conceivable, since Affirmative Action approved students with an “academic handicap” (Nagel). On average, Berkeley accepted minority students with SAT scores 288 points below their composite average (Nagel). Affirmative Action inserted students into a more academically advanced environment than their scholastic capacity permitted, making failure unavoidable (Nagel). Also, in order for schools to maintain their entrance requirements, when lowering the expectations for African Americans and Hispanics, the colleges must compensate through complementing the unimpressive scores with raised standards for whites and Asians (Nagel). This prejudiced adjustment in college standards stimulates racial tension and results in reverse discrimination (Nagel). Not only do schools waste the time of minority students, but also the spots for more felicitous students.
In 1978, the landmark Supreme Court case: Regents of the University of California v. Bakke addressed the issue of preferential treatment, and the curtailment of Affirmative Action, since it was designed to grant greater privileges to minorities, but not to hinder those of the majority (Brunner). The case concerned the University of California, Davis, Medical School, which contained two separate admissions pools, one for the common applicants, and another for minority students (Brunner). The university protected 16 of its 100 spots for the minority applicants (Brunner). Allan Bakke, a white applicant, was denied acceptance to the school twice even though there were minority students accepted with considerably lower scores than his. Bakke argued that any judgment based on race was a breach of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Brunner). The Supreme Court was split in its decision on the case and barely touched on the complicated issues that surrounded Affirmative Action, however, the court ruled that while race was a reasonable factor in school admissions, the use of the quota at this particular medical school was not (Brunner). African Americans comprised of only 12% of the American population in 2011 (Martin), but in the Regents v. Bakke case, the medical school requested 16% of its class in 1978, (when the minority population would have been less substantial compared to their current status) (Brunner). It is disturbing that a medical school would reject more fit applicants, that would probably develop into exceptional doctors, productive members of society, in order to admit less competitive applicants based on an aspect of their physical appearance.
Although Regents v. Bakke indicates American dissatisfaction with Affirmative Action, the first case to actually rule against the policy was the 1996 Hopwood case. The case involved Hopwood, a married white woman, raising a disabled child who was rejected by the University of Texas Law School. The University claimed she was not “diverse” enough while 92 African American and Hispanic students with lower test scores who were admitted ahead of her, were. The court stated, “The use of race in and of itself, to choose students is no more rational on its own terms than would be choices based upon the physical size or blood type of applicants” (qtd. in Nagel). The Hopwood case initiated the court ruling that the Fifth Circuit States- Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, are not authorized to use race or ethnicity as a factor in admissions to college (Nagel). Many people agree that Affirmative Action has served its purpose and is overdue. The time has arrived for the abrogation of the policy. According to the NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted in January of 2003, 65% of the American populous oppose the practice of using race as one of the factors in admissions to increase diversity in the student body (“Affirmative Action”). Another survey exposes the commonly shared desire to eradicate Affirmative Action in America, since 77 % of whites and 64 % of Hispanics object the use of Affirmative Action because they think it dictates racial quotas, 80 % whites and 71 % Hispanics are against the preferential treatment Affirmative Action provides, but 84 % blacks think that Affirmative Action is still necessary (“Affirmative Action”). It is possible that African Americans would prefer the continuance of the policy due to their reduced confidence, as previously mentioned, and an unhealthy dependence on Affirmative Action could be a result of the duration of the policy. Affirmative Action is an ineffective policy that accentuates the severed union of races in America, discourages minorities, and troubles Caucasians.
Affirmative Action triggered a commotion in the early 1970s, a few years following the enactment of the policy, and is still inciting heated debates to this day. A common argument in support of Affirmative Action is that minority students typically originate from an impoverished area and mature in a low-income family, therefore, a helping hand would be appreciated, for they are not fortunate enough to receive the proper training and opportunities that Caucasians, (the majority) are exposed to (Messerli). Although statistics may point in favor of that stance, it is still a generalization that is to be inferred from the policy, which exacerbates the use of stereotypes. Affirmative Action only specifies that minorities are to receive preferential treatment, not applicants of a lower socioeconomic status. In addition, there is a higher concentration of African Americans living below the poverty line in comparison to Caucasians, but there are more poor Caucasians in terms of quantity in America (“Census Bureau Says 1.3 Million More Americans in Poverty”). Also, in a study administered by the College Board in 1994 of black families and white families in equivalent socioeconomic statuses, the 80-100 point gap on the SAT for the students remained consistent, whether both family incomes were $10,000 or $20,000, $100,000, and so on and so forth (Slater 58). The investigation proves that socioeconomic status is not the culprit of the disparity in academic capabilities, which means there has yet to be a correct diagnosis. Plus, Affirmative Action would accede to the acceptance of an African American that occupies a house in La Grange and attends Lyons Township, which is definitely not a disadvantaged prospective student. Another debate revolving around Affirmative Action is that the policy actually eradicates stereotypes. Dr. Michelle L. argues, “As long as the minority students are attending the same school as the white folk, then they have already broken the popular stereotype that minorities are poor and ignorant, uneducated, etc.” Although Dr. L has a point, there is still one crucial flaw to her idea: Affirmative Action! As long as the majority is aware of the presence of the policy, it is probable that they will draw the conclusion that the minorities were admitted on behalf of the policy rather than intelligence or hard work (Messerli). Affirmative Action contradicts its purpose, for the common arguments do not adequately support the policy.
Affirmative Action is a feeble policy that fails to remedy inequality, institutes an incomparable academic rivalry between Caucasians and students admitted with this assistance, and prolongs racism. This policy is derogatory towards minorities, and diminishes their self-worth and position in society. Affirmative Action does not successfully integrate minorities into ambitious settings, and wastes spots in schools that could have been utilized efficiently, (meaning students that would graduate and hopefully become a productive member of society) and the policy lowers entrance requirements for schools due to the skin color of an applicant, which is ridiculous in this day and age. Affirmative Action should be eliminated in college admissions considering the negative short-term and long-term effects the policy imparts to all of us. The abolishment of Affirmative Action would advance America into a new progressive phase of equality. One where color would not dictate any aspect of any life, and people will only be viewed as individuals, not demographics. Equality will be more within reach if America nullifies Affirmative Action.